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Basketball prospect on road to recovery

By: brent w. new sports@gazette.com
July 24, 2014 Updated: July 24, 2014 at 10:53 pm
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It seemed like yesterday when Harry Giles was basketball royalty, getting the kind of treatment reserved for high school stars like LeBron James and Andrew Wiggins. At the age of 16, the 6-foot-9 forward was anointed the next Kevin Garnett, a 15-time NBA All-Star.

Giles had it all, and thought he always would.

Then, just like that, the king of the 2016 class disappeared - dethroned by his knee.

He returned to the national scene Thursday at the Olympic Training Center. Giles, with his game still limited 11 months after tearing his ACL and MCL, took part in the USA basketball men's developmental team's first day of practice at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

With a bulky brace strapped to his left knee - a constant reminder of the gruesome injury he suffered on the U16 USA men's basketball team last year - Giles will compete against 32 other high school stars from around the country for a spot on the U17 national team.

He's about 85-percent healthy, he says.

"I feel pretty good. I'm tired, but that's expected," Giles said. "I'm trying not to think about it (his knee), but I still do a bit. I just don't want to injure it again. All my coaches say though, just keep positive vibes."

Last year, the North Carolina product, a player with stellar court vision and athleticism usually only seen in a shoe commercial, was bound to be recruited by every top college in the nation. He had everything planned - but now that he's a high school junior, and eligible to be officially recruited, Giles said he has a lot more to prove.

"Everyone wants to see what I can and if I will bounce back," Giles said. "It's a roller coaster. You go from having everything to getting shot down. I have to prove myself all over again."

Giles has no doubt he will be able to. On Thursday, he looked healthy, although a bit rusty. At one point, during a 5-on-5 scrimmage, Giles was a force under the basket and in the open court, but appeared hesitant to go all out on his knee.

"He's probably 80 percent, and he's really good at 80 percent," said Don Showalter, who has coached Giles for the past two seasons at USA basketball. "He is getting better and better on that knee though."

College coaches will swarm upon the Olympic Training Center on Friday, hoping to get a glimpse of the nation's best collegiate players. Ivan Rabb (ranked No. 1 in 2015 class by ESPN) and Malik Newman (No. 3, 2015) will be a couple of players pressed upon with recruiting tactics in the coming days.

"It'll be fun, probably a little crazy too," said Newman, who has UCLA, Arizona, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi State and North Carolina on his list of possible destinations.

Giles, meanwhile, said he is playing with something to prove. Although he's still a five-star recruit, fourth on ESPN Top 60 in the 2016 class, Giles said his main goal is to get healthy so he can fulfill his childhood dreams.

"There are always going to be ups and downs," he said. "I have been in a down, but that will change and I will get back to the top."

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